8:00 PM ET, January 8, 2014
Toyota Center, Houston, TX
Tonight the Houston Rockets and their top scorer, James Harden, end a five-day break and play just their second game of the year when they host the Los Angeles Lakers.
Houston (22-13) last played on Jan. 3 versus the New York Knicks and Harden was nearly unstoppable. The 24 year-old player went 10 of 19 from the floor and hit all 12 of his free throws, finishing with 37 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
Harden, who had 38 points and 10 rebounds in a New Year’s Eve defeat versus the Sacramento Kings, has tried at least 12 free throws five times this season and Houston is 4-1 in those games — the lone defeat coming versus Los Angeles on Nov. 7.
However, the Rockets have had a lot of difficulty from 3-point range over their last five games, shooting 26.5 percent (35 for 132) since a 12-for-24 performance in a Christmas Day victory versus the San Antonio Spurs.
Los Angeles (14-21) will be playing their second game in as many nights after losing 110-97 versus the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday.
Jodie Meeks scored 24, while Pau Gasol, who had been averaging 24.3 points on 48.6 percent shooting in the previous three games, had 15 on 5-of-14 shooting.
The Lakers are 3-4 this NBA season in the second leg of back-to-backs, scoring 92.0 points per game in those contests — nearly eight lower than its season average.
Former Los Angeles center Dwight Howard, who signed with Houston in the offseason, had 15 points and 14 rebounds in the loss. The 28 year-old missed seven free throws in the fourth quarter and went 5 of 16 at the line in the game.
Harden also attempted 16 free throws in that one, but the shooting guard hit 14 of them to finish with 35 points even while going 9 for 24 from the field.